One year after facing off against each other in the 2016 Tavern Club Invitational final, world No. 1 Manek Mathur & world No. 2 Damien Mudge return to Cleveland as the title favorites as they near the end of a dominant SDA Tour season.
Last year, Mathur earned his first Tavern Club title in a one-off pairing with former world No. 1 Ben Gould—Mudge’s partner of five years—while Mudge reunited with his partner from 2009-2010, Viktor Berg, for much of the 2015-2016 season. Mathur & Gould’s marathon five-game final victory sent Gould level with Mudge as the all-time Tavern Club title leaders with seven each.
In the offseason, Mathur & Mudge joined forces to and returned to the tour in the fall as a new power partnership. In their first season together, Mathur & Mudge have lost just one match all season—the season-opening Maryland Club Open final—and have won seven titles in seven tournaments since that loss in October. If the top seeds earn the title this year, Mudge would move past Gould with his eighth title since his first in 2008.
A diverse draw will aim to thwart the top seeds’ title hopes, however. Canada’s Will Mariani & Fred Reid enter the draw as the four seeds with a predicted semifinal against Mathur & Mudge. Reid has enjoyed his most successful SDA season to date with two major semifinal runs in the Jim Bentley Cup and Baltimore Cup.
Local favorites Iago Cornes & Joe Russell will hope to entertain the home crowd with a first-round match against Graham Bassett & John Roberts, with the winner set to face Mariani & Reid in the second round.
England’s 2015 world doubles champion and world No. 8 John Russell & world No. 13 Raj Nanda oppose Mathur & Mudge as the two seeds in the draw’s bottom half. Russell has played with six different partners this season and will aim for his fourth final appearance and potentially first title of the season.
Russell & Nanda could face one of the most promising partnerships this season in the second round in the form of Bobby Burns & James Bamber. Burns, twenty-seven years old, and Bamber, twenty-one years old, reached the David C. Johnson Memorial semifinals as qualifiers, which included a quarterfinal upset against Russell & Berg. Burns & Bamber will play Scotsman and Missouri Athletic Club pro Adam Bews & Australian journeyman Jeff Osborne in their tournament opener.
The sole qualifying spot will be occupied by either Joshua Hollings & Jonathan Hyett or Mark & Ray Lindsay, and will slot in for a first-match against South African Clinton Leeuw & Jordan Greenberg. The winner of which will face the tournament’s three seeds, Imran Khan & Jacques Swanepoel.
The twelfth Tavern Club Invitational will prove to be historic by either augmenting its all-time title record, or welcoming two new names onto the tournament’s roll of champions.